The best thing about having a birthday celebration for a toddler is that they will be enthusiastic no matter what, even if it’s a low-key day on a tight budget. Give them a cake and a couple of presents and they’ll be thrilled. Anything more is just above and beyond. We’re not saying there won’t be some tantrums, but a day filled with fun and attention is sure to be their best day ever.
The easiest way to start planning a birthday party for your three-year-old is to pick a theme and go from there. That can help you choose the decorations, menu, cake, and activities (if needed).
Read on for planning tips and our 15 favorite party themes for your three-year-old, no matter what they’re into.
Party planning tips
The guest list comes down to personal preference but possibilities are family, family friends, neighbors, and daycare or preschool friends. It’s worth bearing in mind that younger children can find a large group of people overwhelming so opting for fewer attendees could also be opting for fewer tears.
When scheduling the party, plan around nap time and keep it to a couple of hours. It’s unlikely that your toddler will be able to keep on his happy face for much longer than that. And the same applies to any other young family members and friends. Short and sweet is the best option here!
Plan a kid-friendly menu, whether it’s snacks and cake, pizza, or something homemade (more power to you). Keep it easy for yourself so you don’t have a thousand things to prepare in the run-up – no three-year-old wants a stressed-out mom ahead of their party!
Games and activities are not a necessity but can be nice for keeping a group of kids busy. If you do want some activities to give the party some structure then 2 – 3 max is plenty for this age group.
Lastly, putting up decorations is a simple way to let your child know that today is a special day. As soon as they see balloons and a birthday banner, the party is on.
Now, for the theme!
Party ideas for 3-year-olds
So, here’s a list of ideas to theme your party. Once you know your theme, you can organize your activities, decorations and even tie the theme through the food if you’re feeling creative!
Usually, if you have a lifelong dino-lover on your hands, the obsession has begun by this age. There are so many fun dinosaur party supplies, and you can get creative with plastic dinosaurs as cake and cupcake toppers, fossil cookies, dinosaur food labels, and dino masks. For an activity, have a fossil dig in a sandbox or activity table. Put a girly twist on it with these sweet ideas.
2. Dance party
No one is more uninhibited than a three-year-old when their song is playing. There is a 100% chance they will dance, and a 100% chance they will bust some never-before-seen moves. Set up a “dance floor” in the backyard or living room, and make a playlist of their favorite songs so they can dance the night (or mid-afternoon) away.
3. Disney/Pixar characters
Disney and Pixar princesses, characters, and animals are a surefire way to make the theme recognizable and fun for your toddler’s birthday party. This can also be a very simple theme to buy goodie bags and decorations for, especially with more recent movies. Favorites include Toy Story, Frozen, Moana, Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles.
4. Young, wild & three
Similar to “Wild One” birthday parties, you can go a couple of different directions with this theme. If you choose the boho tribal route, think flower crowns, dreamcatchers, and teepees, like this gorgeous celebration. Another option is a safari theme with jungle animals, which is pretty easy to decorate and plan a menu for.
5. Bubble party
If you’re planning a birthday party for a toddler, you simply can’t go wrong with bubbles. Get a couple different bubble machines for the backyard and keep ‘em coming. Bubble wands make an easy party activity or favor, and you can make your own giant bubbles in a kiddie pool. There are even bubble companies that send someone out to put on a bubble show with rainbow bubbles, bubble shapes, and giant bubbles that each child can go inside.
6. Tropical beach party
If your kiddo is lucky enough to have a summer birthday, water is a must. Luckily, with a toddler, you don’t need a full-sized pool to make their day. Fill up a kiddie pool or two, get out the water table, a sprinkler, or a slip and slide. You can fill up water balloons and water guns, especially if you’ll have older kids at the party. Put a tropical, pink twist on it with flamingo, palm tree, and pineapple decorations.
7. Are you kitten me?
Throw your three-year-old a cat-themed birthday party, which is both adorable and sure to please. Party ideas include handing out cat ears to your guests, a cat cake or cat cupcake toppers, cat face plates, balloons that spell out “Are You Kitten Me?” and garland made of balls of yarn. Dress up the birthday girl or boy as a cat, of course.
8. Get crafty
If you’ve got a crafty toddler and aren’t afraid of a little mess, a craft party is a great idea. It works best outside but can be done inside with plenty of sheets or disposable tablecloths. Tape butcher paper on a table and provide markers, paint dotters, and crayons. There can be a sidewalk chalk station or finger painting on a white sheet. Party snacks, cupcakes, and balloons can be every color of the rainbow.
9. Backyard picnic
If the weather is typically nice around your child’s birthday, consider a backyard picnic. This is a nice option if your house is on the smaller side, or you don’t feel like cleaning every nook and cranny (and has the added benefit of being more COVID-friendly). You can do face painting, cook out food, checkered tablecloths, and set up corn hole or badminton. Go all out by renting a food truck or cotton candy machine.
10. Visit the zoo or petting zoo
A trip to your local zoo or petting zoo is a memorable way to celebrate the day while bypassing the planning and cleaning involved in throwing a party. Invite the grandparents or some close friends, or simply go as a family. Your toddler will love seeing the animals and taking a fun day trip, and you can have cake and presents when you get home.
If your three-year-old already knows the difference between Marvel and DC, you may want to have a superhero party. Have your guests dress up or provide capes and superhero masks. You can decorate with the colors of their favorite superhero and cardboard cutouts of superheroes, cityscapes, and action words.
12. Unicorn party
It’s hard to deny the allure of the elusive unicorn, and most little girls would agree. Make it magical with glitter, rainbows or flowers, and games of Pin the Horn on the Unicorn. For a color scheme, you can go with understated gold and blush or bold pink and teal. And is there anything cuter than a unicorn cake?
13. Pick their favorite color
It sounds simple because it is. My daughter was absolutely obsessed with purple, and making every little detail purple on her birthday made her dreams come true. Balloons, plates, streamers, cake and cupcakes, and of course, a party dress or outfit. Depending on the color, you can continue the theme with the menu, too.
14. Dig party
Three is the age of peak construction obsession, making it the perfect time for a dig party. You can hand out hard hats for your guests, and fill a large sandbox with dirt or sand. You will likely want to buy some inexpensive construction vehicles for other kids to use so that your toddler doesn’t get possessive over his favorite truck. We love these ideas for decorating your dig party.
15. Dress up tea party
Invite your toddler’s aunt, grandma, cousins, or friends for a sweet and fancy tea party. Everybody can wear their best dress and hat, and you can set the table with tea sandwiches, cookies, and juice in teacups (preferably non-breakable). Decorate with flowers and pinks, or reserve a local tea house if you prefer. Here are some tea party games if you like to have a little entertainment.